Thursday, July 17, 2014

Throwback Thursday Review: 'THE OMEN' (1976)

RUN TIME- 111 Mins
WRITER(S)- David Seltzer
STARRING- Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, and Harvey Stephens
DIRECTOR- Richard Donner 

Synopsis taken from IMDb
Mysterious deaths surround an American ambassador. Could the child that he is raising actually be the anti-Christ? The devil's own son? 

Like last week, this Throwback Thursday review is of another great horror gem from the 70's. A lot of films back then were based on, or around religion, mostly because everyone always feared the world was going to end. Back then, people weren't as eager to dispel the Bible like they are today. The book of the same title by David Seltzer, was released the same year in which the film, The Omen was distributed. Having grown up in a religious household, these types of movies often got watched, and I still have the old tattered hardback copy of the book that was my Dad's. Devils and demons have always scared me, but The Omen didn't have that kind of hold on me.

I still love it to this day and consider it to be one of the greatest genre pieces ever constructed. However, it never truly scared me, I was just more or less in awe over its greatness as a film. The acting, the story, the details, and the plot twist all make this picture very well-rounded. Richard Donner (Superman), who doesn't do horror movies very often, took a classy book and made it into a classy horror movie that's about as eye-opening as anything you'll watch. The Omen also gave popularity to the phrase 'the mark of the beast', which is now commonly used.

It all starts when United States Ambassador Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck), makes an executive decision behind his wife, Katherine's back. He is told by a priest and nurses that his newborn son was born dead, and Robert knows that his wife can't withstand the news that she's lost yet another baby. So, he agrees to take an orphaned child who was born at the same time his son was, and never tell his wife it's not theirs for the sake of her sanity. They name him Damien. Little does he know that his adopted son's mother is a Jackal, and bares a pattern of three sixes on his scalp. Once he does find out, it's too little too late.

There's always weird occurrences with Damien (Harvey Stephens), such as when they drive near a church he spazzes out and gets physical by scratching and pulling hair. You can't even take this kid to the zoo without the car getting attacked by monkeys! There's other strange things too, such as Damien's nanny hanging herself on his fifth birthday in front of the entire party exclaiming, "It's all for you, Damien" before taking the fatal plunge from atop the Thorn's mansion. Then, a new nanny by the name of Mrs. Baylock (Billie Whitelaw) suspiciously shows up. While Mrs. Baylock seems like the perfect fit for Damien and the Thorn's like her, it doesn't take long for her to start defying them and show her true colors. She was sent as a watcher/protector of Damien, and she allows him to play with the weird dog that's always lingering around despite her being told to get rid of it.

The press photographer Keith Jennings (David Warner) who was at Damien's birthday party and witnessed the nanny hang herself, decides to start following Robert because of the strange event. He sees Robert talking to a priest named Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton) who tries to tell him about Damien's true origins. Once Jennings inspects the pictures, he took of Robert and the priest, he notices a vague black line going through the priest. Later, under strange circumstances, we witness the priest get impaled to the ground the exact way the line in the photograph depicted. Keith takes the information to Robert who is reluctant to believe him, but soon learns of him to be an ally. After helping Robert dig to the bottom of the truth about Damien, and as a prior photograph foretold, Keith is decapitated by a sheet of window glass. 

It's the small details that you've gotta pick up in order to appreciate the classiness off the movies making, like how instead of drenching the decapitation scene in blood, notice instead that there's no blood shown, but a bottle of red wine shatters upon the impact and its spewing everywhere actually substitutes for gore. If you've never noticed this before, check it out!

Katherine Thorn doesn't do too well either as she's put in the hospital because of Damien (being a heartless bastard) runs his mom down with his bike, causing her to fall from a second story landing. This scene was actually done by gluing the broken fishbowl to a wall that was covered in the same hardwood flooring and simply wheeling actress Lee Remick, who was standing upright, into the wall. Simple movie trickery, yet it can make an incredible scene. Katherine is later thrown out of a window in her hospital room and killed by Mrs. Baylock.

After the death of his new friend Keith, his wife, the priest that warned him, and the nanny, Robert now knows the truth despite not wanting to face it. He ends up in a fight with Mrs. Baylock which ends in her demise, as he attempts to take Damien to a church to kill him on sacred ground using seven sacred daggers that he was given in Israel. Once getting to the church and prepping Damien for the kill, however, due to his speeding on the road, he was followed by police who see him attempt to murder his child and shoot Robert dead. Very impactful ending that makes you gasp upon a first time viewing. It's reminiscent of  the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead conclusion which is void of no hope and impending doom and gloom. The film concludes with us seeing Damien attending his parents funeral, and in the company of the president of the United States. 

The reason The Omen still holds up today isn't just because it's a masterpiece, but instead of what it stands for. A lot of people consider politicians to be evil, and while I think that's a bold statement to make, I'll admit that the acts committed out of greed such as sending people over to fight a war while the higher-ups get their pockets aligned with cash, are in fact evil. You can look at Damien's future as the president, like in the third installment, in both religious and non-religious ways. One way to view it could be to say that in the Bible, the anti-Christ does indeed become the ruler of a nation. Another way to look at it would be that the president is evil or can be evil, devil in the flesh or not, and will bring nothing but only harm to those he rules over. We've already experienced the latter, but we all know things could be and get a lot worse. 

Since it's release, The Omen has spawned four sequels, and a remake in 2006. The news hit just a few weeks ago that we're getting another remake, believe it or not. They'r re-remaking it. I guess we'll have to see how it all turns out, and hope it's for the better. Just last year, I purchased the collection on Blu-ray which consists of the original trilogy and the remake. It's not overloaded with bonus material, but it's a treat seeing them with such clarity. To anyone who's a fan of these movies, it's a must buy for sure.

BEST SCENE: For me, there's a lot. But, I'm definitely going with the unveiling of Damien's birthmark of 666 on his scalp of. That scene is so intense I still find it hard to breathe when I watch it. You can hear a pin drop I get so quiet. 

BEST QUOTE: I have to give this to Father Brennan when he quotes the Bible in trying to warn Robert about his son Damien saying, "When the Jews return to Zion, and a comet rips the sky, and the Holy Roman Empire rises, then you and I must die. From the eternal sea he rises, creating armies on either shore, turning man against his brother, 'Til man exists no more."



  1. My love for The Omen knows no boundaries - I think everything about this movie is simply perfect and it really is a true masterpiece. And son of a bitch, I never did notice the wine bottle thing in the decapitation! Could just be coincidence, but nice pick-up, I like it!

    1. I actually never noticed it until I watched the commentary with the director and he pointed it out. My reaction was "OMG that's brilliant!" Very informative commentary. I recommend it if you're as big a fan as me!


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